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August 12, 2009

Colin Montgomerie


KELLY ELBIN: 2010 European Ryder Cup Team Captain Colin Montgomerie joining us at the 91st PGA Championship at Hazeltine National Golf Club. This will be Colin's 18th PGA Championship, his first major in the United States this year.
Colin, some thoughts on the golf course here at Hazeltine and maybe a follow-up with looking ahead to Celtic Manor next year.
COLIN MONTGOMERIE: Yeah, well, the golf course as everyone states is a fabulous one, a very fair one, and a very long one. But at the same time I think that every shot is in front of you. I think that it's one of our fairest tests, and the weather is set fair, and the course is in great condition. It's set up for a marvelous championship.
I must say on behalf of the PGA I'm glad they hold their tradition of inviting the European Ryder Cup Captain, otherwise I wouldn't be here as a player. So I thank them again for honoring that and delighted to be here as a player and hopefully not just to compete in this tournament but to contend. I've been working on my game a lot over the last three weeks since I missed out at the Open by a shot, and things are looking up.
So I look forward to the next four days.
KELLY ELBIN: Very good. And perhaps a comment looking ahead to next fall in Wales.
COLIN MONTGOMERIE: Yes, next fall, we were delighted as The European Tour to invite Corey and his initial team. Kerry was over there, I believe, and was good to invite them over to Celtic Manor to witness what a fantastic setting it is. We look forward to everything that goes on from now until then, until the matches are played, as you say, in the fall of 2010.
But a lots going to happen before then, and the qualifying system, the qualifying ourselves starts in Switzerland in less than a month now, and we look forward to it transpiring and to see who is actually going to be on that team.
KELLY ELBIN: Terrific. Lots to be determined.

Q. Bear with me, I don't always speak very clearly, but if you threw out links golf obviously and Augusta National, we're getting to a stage now where we're returning to major courses for second -- multiple times since the advent of the multi-layer golf ball. And this one here is expanded by some 300-odd yards. Is it necessary?
COLIN MONTGOMERIE: Well, that's a very good question. We as players always feel that the hardest courses aren't necessarily the longest ones. By that, I mean if we get the greens firm and smaller greens and firmer greens, then the scoring automatically rises. And that's what we as players would feel.
There's one particular hole here that we feel is on the long side, which is obviously the 12th hole at 518 yards. It was playing into the wind this morning.
I played nine holes this morning and couldn't reach with two woods, and it's unfortunate that the original layout of the bunkers on the right-hand side to catch the drive there are now set at 320 yards, which for the majority of the field is out of play.
So it is a shame that sometimes these fantastic, traditional courses, this one and especially your fantastic courses on your Eastern seaboard there are becoming -- having to lengthen themselves. But we as players would almost prefer to have the smaller, firmer greens, and that would encourage having to hit the fairway anyway.
But as I say, this is a very, very fair golf course. It is long. Technology has gone forward in the last seven years since we were last here in 20 '02, and we look forward to seeing how the scoring is. I'm sure there's always someone has hey hot week, and we'll see what the scoring is like.

Q. Just a couple of things. First of all, on the length, is it an unfair thing to do, because it obviously penalizes half the field more than the other half? And can I also ask on The Ryder Cup, is it too soon for the sort of bonding to begin? Did you consider having a dinner or getting the boys together this week, or is it too soon before the qualifying?
COLIN MONTGOMERIE: Good, I'll answer your second question first, if you don't mind. I think that it is a little bit too soon. I know the players extremely well. The nucleus of my team will remain intact. I think you'll see the six or seven of a nucleus remaining the same. And I know them very, very well and have dinner throughout the year with them.
So I think we're a little bit early, until we find about the qualification how it's going and then to see if there's any rookies that are doing particularly well. And then we might encourage the senior players and myself to sit down at some particular tournament down the road and have a chat about things. But a little bit too soon at this stage.
But to answer your first question, now I've completely forgotten what it was -- regarding the length, was it?

Q. Penalizing half the field.
COLIN MONTGOMERIE: Yes, I'm sorry, of course. It makes it more difficult, especially. Depends where they put the pins. If they put the pins tight to the bunkers and tight to the sides of the greens, which is usual here, that it does penalize the shorter players.
But that's part of the game. Length has always been a wonderful asset to have. I played with Alvaro Quiros there yesterday and a terrific advantage he has.
So does Andy Roddick serving at Wimbledon, a terrific advantage. That doesn't mean we are taking it away. We are not making the tennis court any smaller or bigger. He just has an advantage. And a fast serve on grass is an advantage. Hitting the ball a long way is an advantage in the golf game and all credit to the people who have found a way of hitting it further.

Q. As European captain, how do you assess the European challenge this week?
COLIN MONTGOMERIE: Well, we've got 32 players playing, including myself, so that's only 32 eligible members and you'll probably find that the Ryder Cup Team is playing here. Let's hope that Paul Casey can get over his injury and play, and then you'll probably find that the full Ryder Cup Team in 2010 will be on show here today, this week.
So it will be interesting how they go. I'll be watching the scores intensely over the next four days, and over the next four majors, obviously, after this one, to see what's happening and to see the form on these fantastic setup of courses.
We have, as I say, 31 players. I expect out of that 31 to have four or five of that 31 in the Top-10 this week. We have a fantastic wealth of talent in Europe now, more than I've ever witnessed in my 22 years, and I'm looking to have, as I say, four or five of that 31 in the Top-10 this week, which will be a super effort.

Q. Any particular names?
COLIN MONTGOMERIE: It's difficult at this stage, but obviously the one name that springs to mind who is playing as well as anyone and should probably have been in that playoff at least to the British Open is Lee Westwood.
He's striking the ball as well as anyone. Padraig Harrington, I'm glad that he's showing signs of his great form at the end of last year, as well. So there's two names, and we just hope that Paul Casey is fit enough to compete, because obviously a real contender here.

Q. You've come closer to winning the PGA Championship than any other Brit in modern times. Can you give us some idea of what it takes to get to that place and why Brits have traditionally struggled in this championship?
COLIN MONTGOMERIE: I know, it is strange that the British have struggled in the U.S. Open and that type of -- you know, the U.S. Open, the US PGA. We almost classify Padraig Harrington as a Brit. We'll take him on this one. (Chuckling).
But at the same time, it has been a difficult one for us over the years. I managed to get into a playoff in 1995 at Riviera and lost out, but it's just one of these things. I put it down to pure coincidence that others, other nationalities, if you like, have performed better.
But I do feel now that it's about time that changed now, and I'm expecting bigger and better things from our top players and not just to compete in this championship, but to contend and to contend on Sunday afternoon coming down the last few holes.
As I said earlier, I would expect four or five of our European contingent here to be in the Top-10, which I don't think you could have said ten or 15 years ago.

Q. Just to take you back to the golf course, as a golf course designer, how would you go about toughening up a course without adding length to it?
COLIN MONTGOMERIE: Well, as I said earlier, I think that the holes that have been left alone at your famous Augusta National here in the States, there's one hole that I don't think will ever be touched, and that's the 12th. And it's an 8-iron and you get a green that's eight yards across, and it's a very, very difficult shot.
This is what we have to get back to is making these greens even smaller than they are, and firmer. That's what would make courses more difficult, and that's what I try and bring in, the firmer, smaller greens, and that would make the courses harder, immediately.

Q. Did you purposely go to Valderrama last week because of the small greens and the toughness of the course.
COLIN MONTGOMERIE: Well, I had a couple of opportunities. I was down having a holiday with the family, a vacation, I believe, you say here.
COLIN MONTGOMERIE: And for two weeks, and I purposely went to Valderrama. I had an opportunity to go to other courses, but I drove a little bit further to Valderrama because of the small greens. My game has not been good this year. That's obvious, where I am on the Order of Merit and The Race to Dubai, and I felt that if I can hit these greens and get some confidence, that I can come here and do the same thing.

Q. I'm almost sorry to bring this up, but I couldn't help but notice, Sandy Lyle was out front, and I'm curious if you had an opportunity to speak with him; and if so, can you give us any insight into that conversation?
COLIN MONTGOMERIE: Yes, it's interesting, I didn't realize that Sandy was coming over here to commentate for our British SKY Television here for the tournament. And I had just managed to speak to Sandy just before we came in here, which was good. I can't, unfortunately, say what was said. But that matter is now closed and I personally thought it was closed four and a half years ago; it is now, believe me (smiling).
I spoke to Sandy just, what, about 45 minutes ago.

Q. Most major championship courses have something that's unique about them, but the only thing we're hearing this week said about Hazeltine is its length. Is there nothing else unique about this golf course other than 7600 yards?
COLIN MONTGOMERIE: Well, that's a very good question. I think you've got one unique hole on 16, especially, which you can put that on any golf course. I think it's one of most beautiful golf holes in America.
I think it's a super, super golf hole and will be pivotal come Sunday, I'm sure. There's a number of great shots to be hit here. It's a very, very fair, yes, long, but nowadays, that's standard issue. 7,670 yards long; long, but fair, and just every hole is a very good, strong golf hole. It doesn't have to be unique in any way to make it any better. It just is a very fair, long test of golf.

Q. They are expecting an announcement tomorrow about the Olympics in golf. If you were a part of that, what do you think would be the best and fairest way to showcase golf that might distinguish it in that kind of format?
COLIN MONTGOMERIE: Well, I actually went over with your own Tim Finchem and Ty Votaw and also with our Peter Dawson to Lausanne. And I spoke on behalf of golf to recommend golf to the IOC, to the committee to try and get golf in the Olympics in 2016, starting in 2016.
I hear the vote and the recommendation is to be put forward tomorrow for the two sports to go into another selection process in Copenhagen later on.
I just hope and pray that golf is one of those seven sports that we were up against, and let's hope that it does. I won't be personally playing possibly in 2016. I heard that Tiger, unless he's retired, which he won't be, will play, and I'm delighted that he's put his name forward, as well, to competing not just for himself but for the United States. That gives us all a boost. And let's hope that golf becomes an Olympic sport. It was an Olympic sport in 1900 and 1904 in the Paris Olympics, but for some unknown reason didn't continue.
So it's not having golf in the Olympics for the first time, it's actually having it again, and we would like it back again.

Q. In terms of the format, it was originally presented as probably a 72-hole stroke-play format, and I understand they may be reconsidering that and considering other options. Would you like to see more of a match-play or possibly even some team match-play formats in there?
COLIN MONTGOMERIE: There was a number of options available, as you say. There's match play, individual match play, there's team match play. There's stroke play. Of course the women are involved as well. So we thought the best plan of attack was to go with, I believe, the women on the first week and the men the second week and a 72-hole stroke-play event, the way we do normally. I think it works very well. It works well here. It works well in all of the majors, and why not continue that in the Olympic Games.
I believe we'll be taking the top two from certain countries but we'll be taking the top 15 in the world at the time of 2016 to compete to make up around about 60 players for the men and 60 for the women.

Q. It's been a while since you were the subject of uncomplimentary remarks from the galleries. Now that you're The Ryder Cup captain, do you think you might once again be the man that America loves to hate?
COLIN MONTGOMERIE: (Laughing) Well, I hope -- my word. (Laughter).
KELLY ELBIN: Want to catch your breath a little bit?
COLIN MONTGOMERIE: No, I can't. I can't agree there. I think over the last, say, what, five, six years, it's been a pleasure to come over and play here and I really have enjoyed myself every time I come over.
I do appreciate the way that the courses are manicured. The crowds out there are fantastic. The support that I get as Ryder Cup Captain is superb out there, and I just look forward to, as I said earlier, not just to compete in that championship, but to contend in it, and then I might answer your question differently at the weekend.

Q. You've got The Ryder Cup, obviously your top priority. Where do you see yourself in five years? You're not getting any younger. Are you a Senior Tour kind of guy or someone who can walk away into retirement easily?
COLIN MONTGOMERIE: Well, I'm actually exempt for every European Tour event right through 2015. And that would make me 52. So at that stage, I'll still be playing in Europe, on the fully-fledged European Tour.
If I feel that I would like to play in the odd senior event, I might take that up. But at this stage I have no intention of playing seniors golf at this stage and I will finish my career when I'm 52 on The European Tour.

Q. 1995, Riviera, I recall you seemed to be particularly gutted, as you say in your part of the world, after losing that playoff. Is that one that still kind of sticks in your craw as one that got away?
COLIN MONTGOMERIE: It's certainly the best golf I've ever played over four days. I've played a lot worse and won. I played very well that particular week. I had 17 more putts that particular week than the winner, Steve Elkington, and that was my downfall. I didn't putt well enough.
But I hit the ball through the green as well as I've ever, ever done, and so therefore, it's slightly disappointing not to convert that into a win, if you like. But the most disappointing was Winged Foot in 2006. I should have. And, of course, Phil Mickelson can say the same and so can a few of us, but I was in Position A off the drive, and I should have completed a victory there. But I didn't play half as well in 2006 as I did in 1995 at Riviera.
KELLY ELBIN: European Ryder Cup Captain Colin Montgomerie, thanks very much.

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